There's really nothing like the NHL Playoffs for separating the wheat from the chaff. The lambs from the lions. The men from the boys.
Sure, many players are able to put up decent—or perhaps better than decent—numbers during the regular season. But come playoff time, it becomes a whole different story. The hits become harder, the tempo becomes faster, players are willing to lay it all on the line, and every goal gains nearly monumental importance.
Some players are able to handle the added pressure. Hell, some players thrive on it: Gretzky, Messier, Roy, Orr, Sawchuck. No matter how well they played in the regular season, these players always seemed able to shift into yet another gear come playoff time. They became faster, stronger, more agile. They could take over a game, an entire series. They could carry their teams on their backs.
Other players seem to crumble under the pressure. Get something caught in their throats. Choke.
Joe Thornton, for instance: no matter how dominating Joe is during the regular season, year after year, come playoff time, he suddenly looks as though he might lose a one-on-one battle with my grandmother.
And then there are the guys who have the honor of being honored here today: the one-hit wonders.
These are the true Supermen of hockey: they are the mild-mannered Clark Kents of the hockey world who garner little attention, but who for one fortuitous, and sometimes iconic moment, bound onto the national scene with a performance of seemingly ungodly proportions. And who, despite momentarily leaping tall buildings in a single bound, eventually nuzzle themselves back under their rocks of mediocrity once the limelight has fizzled.
May Sean Bergenheim be one of these Supermen? With seven goals in his first 11 playoff games, nobody has lit the lamp more than Bergenheim in the 2011 playoffs. Indeed, Bergenheim is scoring four times as often as he has throughout his six year career, and has become a crucial part of the Lightning's playoff success to this point.
Does this make him a one-hit wonder? We'll need to watch the rest of his career unfold before we know for sure. However, for the men on the following pages, their superhero status is already well-established.
To call Stephane Matteau a "one-hit wonder" may not be completely fair. Indeed, Matteau was able to put together a fairly decent career during which he amassed 144 goals and 316 total points over his 13 seasons.
Nonetheless, Matteau only once amassed more than 15 goals in a single season (16 in 96-97), and was generally regarded as little more than a competent and useful grinder who could dig in the corners and protect the more skilled players on the ice.
For these reasons, he certainly became an unexpected hero when he managed to record not one, but two, dramatic goals during second overtimes of the 1994 Eastern Conference final against Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils.
The first came at 6:13 of the second overtime period in Game 3 of the series, and gave the New York Rangers a 2-1 lead in the series. The second, forever immortalized by Ranger's announcer Howie Rose, finished off the Devils at 4:24 of the second overtime of Game 7. In the words of Howie Rose himself:
"Fetisov for the Devils plays it cross-ice, into the far corner. Matteau swoops in to intercept. Matteau behind the net, swings it in front. He scores! Matteau!! Matteau!! Matteau!! Stephane Matteau!! And the Rangers have one more hill to climb, baby! But it's Mount Vancouver! The Rangers are headed to the finals!!!"
The Rangers went on to defeat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to take home the cup that year, thanks in large part to the help of Matteau's unlikely overtime heroics.
Matteau, himself, went on to become a journeyman who finished out the rest of his career with the St. Louis Blues, the San Jose Sharks and the Florida Panthers. He called it quits after the 2002-03 season, during which he was sent down to the Panther's farm team, the San Antonio Rampage. He will, nonetheless, always remain a part of the one-hit wonders.
Steve Penney was one step away from delivering beer for a living.
After two seasons toiling in Flint, Michigan of the IHL, and seemingly going nowhere, Penny resolved to attend the Montreal Canadian's training camp in 1983, and to head to his old job delivering beer if it didn't work out. While he didn't initially make the team, he did fall under the guidance of Jacques Plante, and was talked into starting the season with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs of the AHL.
Penney played the majority of the season with the Voyageurs, sporting a modest—if not unimpressive—3.51 goals against average, and a .879 save percentage. However, after an untimely injury to Rick Wamsley, and some horrendous play by Richard Sevigny, Penney found himself called up to the big club for the first time...on the eve of the Canadian's Stanley Cup Playoff run!
Easily surpassing all expectations (which were admittedly as low as humanly possible), Penney quickly became the toast of Montreal. Winning nine playoff games, that included three stunning shutout performances, Penney helped drive Montreal past both the Boston Bruins (in three games) and the Quebec Nordiques (in six games), before losing in six games to the New York Islanders.
Penney went on to have a spectacular rookie season, but quickly faded from the limelight. By 85-86, he was relegated to a backup role with the Canadians, after which he would only play 15 more NHL games (with the Winnipeg Jets). After appearing in 28 games with Moncton in 86-87, he hung up his skates for good. He may very well still be delivering beer today.
You mean you've never heard of Milan Marcetta? Something tells me you're not alone.
But perhaps his name should be better remembered, because he certainly holds a very deserving place on the "one-hit wonders" All-Star lineup.
Marcetta was a career minor-leaguer, amassing a full 20 years of hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Yorkton Terriers, Calgary Stampeders, Buffalo Bisons, Springfield Indians, Saskatoon Quakers, Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds, St. Louis Braves, Denver Invaders, Victoria Maple Leafs, Tulsa Oilers, Rochester Americans, Memphis South Stars, Phoenix Roadrunners and Denver Spurs.
Tired yet? I'm sure he was too.
Somewhere in between bus trips, Marcetta was able to squeeze in two very fortuitous trips to the NHL.
The first was in 1967, when he was a late-season call-up for the Toronto Maple Leafs. While he didn't play in a single regular season game, he made appearances in three playoff games for the Leafs, which was good enough to get his name on the Cup that season.
The second was in 1968, with the Minnesota North Stars, during which he played in 36 regular season games. He amassed four goals and 13 assists, and went minus 11 for the season.
It was during the 1968 playoffs that he donned Superman's blue tights, however. Indeed, during the Stars playoff run that year, Marcetta potted seven goals and matched that with seven assists, for a total of 14 points in 14 games.
Marcetta would only play 18 more games in the NHL, before restarting up his bus tour of the minor league arenas. But not before getting his name on the cup, and spearheading a second run for the silver glory. Well played, dear sir!
While considered one of the hardest and cleanest hitters in the NHL, Bobby Baun was never considered much of an offensive threat. Indeed, he never amassed more than 20 points in any of his 11 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
However, he will always be remembered for one heroic playoff goal that has provided him admission to the one-hit wonder team.
With his team down 3-2 in games to Detroit in the 1964 Stanley Cup, Baun was forced to be carried off the ice on a stretcher after being hit in the right ankle by a Gordie Howe slapshot.
However, despite being diagnosed with a broken ankle, Baun refused to go to the hospital. And once the game went into overtime, Baun insisted that he be allowed back out on the ice. He was given painkillers and had his ankle taped tightly, and indeed returned for the extra period of play.
As if that wasn't enough, a few minutes into the overtime period, Baun picked up a failed Detroit clearing attempt at the blueline, directed a shot on the Detroit goal, and watched it deflected off of a Detroit defenseman and sail over Terry Sawchuk to force a game seven in the series.
And as if that wasn't enough, Baun wouldn't allow doctors to inspect his foot until after he played in game seven as well, which the Leafs won 4-0. Only after the game would he go for x-rays which confirmed that his ankle was, indeed, broken.
Sports Illustrated rated Baun's performance the 15th greatest sports feat of the 20th century.
After amassing 42 goals in the OHL, Chris Kontos was drafted 15th overall in the 81-82 NHL draft by the New York Rangers. Everything seemed to be going as planned; the future looked bright.
However, Chris Kontos would have to travel a long road before reaching the status of one-hit wonder. Indeed, Kontos would spend parts of eight seasons in the NHL, the majority of five seasons in Europe, and would add two stints on the Canadian national team.
He began his career with the Tulsa Oilers, who went belly-up during the 82-83 season. He'd then spend a couple seasons in Finland, before finding himself traded to the Pittsburg Penguins for Ron Duguay. While Kontos amassed a respectable 38 points over 78 games, he was nonetheless traded once again, in 1988, to the Los Angeles Kings.
And, as luck would have it, he became linemates with a little known player called Wayne Gretzky.
Using this to his advantage, Kontos burst onto the LA scene, lighting the lamp nine times in 11 playoff games, and becoming the Great One's favorite post-season target.
Kontos played only six more games with the Los Angeles Kings, who he was in constant contract disputes with. And after one additional season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he became a career minor-leaguer until hanging up the skates for good in 1998. In total, he would amass 54 goals over his 12-year NHL career. However, in his own words:
"I cherish the fact that I was in the limelight for quite a while and I was being recognized for something that was positive and was good and no matter what, nobody will ever be able to take it away from me and a lot of people remember it. I am always thankful of that. It was a time to shine and it was fortunate I did what I did."
Alfie Moore played 24 games in in the NHL—22 regular season games and two playoff games. All but one of these games was for the New York Americans. It's that one that afforded Moore entry into the one-hit wonder Hall of Fame.
The game was in 1938. Moore was in the minors, where he tended to be, collecting nearly as many bus passes as Milan Marcetta. In fact, he was probably planning on being in front of the television, because game one of the Stanley Cup finals against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Toronto Maple Leafs was on the schedule.
As luck would have it (for Moore), Chicago couldn't field a single goalie for the game. Their regular starter Mike Karakas had broken his toe, and their backup goaltender Paul Goodman had not arrived in Toronto in time for the game. After Toronto refused to let them "borrow" the New York Rangers goalie for the game, the team met and management decided to go see if they could rummage up Alfie Moore, who just happened to live in Toronto.
As the story goes, Johnny Gottselig, Chicago's captain, had to search through several well-known Toronto taverns before finally locating Alfie nursing a beer with a couple of other players who's seasons were over. Upon seeing Gottselig, Alfie got excited and asked if he might be able to score a couple of tickets to the game. And upon being told that he'd be playing in the game...Alfie decided to have one more round of drinks.
In the end, the drink must have hit the spot, because Chicago won that first game 3-1. It was Moore's only game of the playoffs, but he got his name engraved on the cup after Chicago won the series.
To call Jim Lorentz a "one-hit wonder" is a bit of a play on words.
Despite a decent career, which played a role in his being inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame in 2010, Lorentz is best known for the reason he picked up his nickname: Batman.
The name was the result of Lorentz truly hitting one out of the park, while waiting for the puck to drop into the faceoff circle during a 1975 playoff game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
A bat had somehow found its way into the arena, and had been dive-bombing fans and players alike throughout the game. While waiting for the puck to drop, the bat made one last ill-fated swoop...and was hammered by Lorentz, who killed it with one wicked swipe with his stick.
"No one wanted to pick it up," said Lorentz, who instantly was dubbed as Batman. "Finally, Rick MacLeish picked it up and buried it in the penalty box."
While Lorentz later received several letters from animal rights activists, he will still always be remembered for his own version of the "one-hit" wonder.
Fernando Pisani, now playing out a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, is a nine-year veteran in the NHL. During those years, he has averaged under 10 goals a year and has never amassed more than 18 goals in a single season.
During one playoff run with the Edmonton Oilers in 2005-06, he nearly surpassed that total.
The Oilers had entered the 05-06 playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, and were forced to play the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. Pisani, seemingly single-handedly carrying the team on his shoulders, potted five goals during the series, including two third-period goals in Game 6 that clinched the series victory for the Oilers.
Not to be content with that effort, Pisani continued fueling the Oilers' Cinderella story against the San Jose Sharks, notching two more goals, including the game winner, in Game 5 of that series. And he continued his hot stick right into the Stanley Cup finals against the Carolina Hurricanes.
In Game 5, Pisani intercepted a late pass and scored his second goal of the game—the first short-handed goal to ever decide an overtime game—to stave off elimination. And he scored again, in a losing effort, in Game 6 of the series.
In total, Pisani finished with a league-leading 14 goals, including five game-winners. This nearly matched his entire regular season output of 18 goals in 80 games.
After the Oilers' miraculous playoff run, Pisani encountered a few bumps in the road. He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which forced him out of considerable action in both the 2007 and 2008 campaigns. Now a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, Pisani is trying to duplicate his playoff hot-streak one more time.
At present, things look bleak: in three games, he has no goals, no assists and is minus one.
Pete Babando may not be a household name. Indeed, while a fairly solid hockey player in his day, his name would most likely have vanished from memory completely if not for one single goal scored on April 23, 1950.
The goal was against the New York Rangers, who were facing off against Babando's Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. After three periods of thrilling regulation hockey, the game remained tied. A full overtime period also proved unable to decide the winner, and the teams went into a second overtime period.
After surviving a flurry by the Rangers, George Gee entered the Rangers zone, made a short pass to Babando, and watched as Babando—who had also scored earlier in the game—backhanded the winner passed a screened Chuck Rayner at 8:30 of double overtime.
Babando had only scored six goals during the entire regular season. Too shy to talk to the press, he declined comment at the time, but agreed to talk about the goal 50 years later with The Sporting News:
"We were at a faceoff in their end to Rayner's right," he recollected. "I was playing with Jacques Couture and George Gee, who took the faceoff. Usually, George had me stand behind him. But this time, he moved me over to the right and told me he was going to pull it that way. I had to take one stride and get it on my backhand. I let the shot go and it went in."
During the off-season, Babando was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, where his numbers remained modest at best. He finished his career in 1953, scoring four goals and amassing eight points for the same New York Rangers that he defeated several years before. In total, Babando potted 86 goals in 351 NHL games.
With a nickname like "Sudden Death", you might imagine that he could induce heart attacks or strokes with a mere wave of his hand. However, Mel Hill's nickname has nothing to do with anyone dying.
Rather, Hill will forever be remembered in hockey's annals because of a different skill: the ability to score three overtime goals in the same playoff series.
Never had it been done before, never has it been done since.
It happened in the 1938-39 season, during which Hill's Boston Bruins were taking on the New York Rangers in the conference semifinals. The Rangers led the series 3-1 before the Bruins roared back, due primarily to the heroics of "Sudden Death", who potted overtime winners in Games 3, 6 and 7.
Quite a feat, to be sure. But Hill remains humble: "I was a basic, unspectacular player who usually performed well when it counted, but I just happened to get super-hot in that series with New York."
Mel played in Toronto until 1946 and then continued to play in the AHL until 1948 (Pittsburgh Hornets). Then for the next four seasons Mel played senior hockey with the Regina Caps before retiring.
After hockey he went into the soft drink business in Regina, Saskatchewan. He built a house in nearby Fort Qu'Appelle where he lived for the next 25 years until he passed away in 1996.
If ever there was a poster boy for the one-hit wonders, it would be John Druce.
Drafted 40th overall by the Washington Capitals in 1985, Druce spent a couple of modest seasons with the Birmingham Whalers before being called up to serve as a fourth line defensive specialist for the Capitals in the 88-89 season.
Putting together back-to-back eight goal seasons during his first two years with the Capitals, Druce appeared to be going nowhere fast. Indeed, while he had grit, and was willing to go toe to toe with the opposition's grinders, his skating style eventually led him to be compared to a Volvo stationwagon skidding down the ice.
Nonetheless, Druce became nothing less than a Stanley Cup legend during the 1991-92 season, when he was thrown into the spotlight after Dino Ciccarelli blew out his knee.
Stunning the hockey world with his sudden offence, Druce lit the lamp 14 times in 15 games during the Capitals playoff run, including a hat trick in Game 2 of the division semifinals against the New Jersey Devils—his first hat trick since playing midget hockey. Eight of Druce's goals came on the powerplay, one shorthanded and four were game winners.
Capitals general manager David Poile stated things matter of factly:
"John Druce was not on the top of my list—anybody's list—to come through the way he did. He came out of nowhere to be the hero." Poile added, "He was not a top player in junior, not a top player in the minors. This is not only a good story today, but a good story for years to come."
Indeed, Druce is probably still regaling his family and friends with stories of his 91-92 cup heroics, in part because of their sheer awesomeness, and in part because he was never able to recapture the magic again.
Traded to the Winnipeg Jets in 92-93, Druce eventually retired after playing a couple of seasons with Deutsche Eishockey Liga. He finished his career with a respectable 113 goals and 126 assists in 531 games.
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